The Total War: Warhammer III: Shadows of Change DLC is about to be released, and players will soon have access to three new legendary lords. While playing this DLC so far, I have enjoyed each new character for different reasons. But I have not felt overly engaged while playing the Realm of Chaos campaign. Each legendary lord does have custom campaign mechanics to a certain degree, but the only one that feels like a truly different experience is The Changeling. The three new legendary lords are Mother Ostankya (Kislev), Yuan Bo, the Jade Dragon (Grand Cathay), and The Changeling (Tzeentch). Let’s look at each in turn and their mechanics to see if this DLC might be worth your time.
This Hag of Kislev starts in an area surrounded by several Chaos factions, Greenskins, and Dwarves. Picking your fights is especially important since once one of the factions goes to war, three or four more can tend to do so at the same time. I found the early game a bit tougher with this character compared to the other two DLC legendary lords.
To help defeat her enemies, Ostankya uses a mechanic called Hexes during the campaign and needs to complete six to win. Each Hex can be quite effective if used appropriately. Spirit Essence is used to cast a Hex and is acquired after battles and by completing a few other activities.
During my playthrough, I had enough Spirit Essence to cast Hexes without much issue. But instead of using the Hexes often, I spent Spirit Essence on the Witches Hut each turn. The Witches Hut allows players to combine trinkets found after battles and create Blessings or Curses. These can then be stored and used prebattle on ally and enemy units. The extra bonuses and penalties can make a huge difference in a tough fight.
I found that the Hexes and Witches Hut mechanics were intuitive to use. The mechanic reminded me of other ritual systems used previously in Total War Warhammer for certain factions and meshed well with the turn-to-turn gameplay. Add the new roster units, and Kislev felt good to play but very similar to a few other legendary lords. The new Akshina Ambushers made a difference in a number of early-game fights where their armor-piercing ranged attacks could easily down problematic enemies. With adding a few Things in The Woods to help hold the front line and chase down ranged units, not much made it out alive.
The Incarnate Elemental of Beasts was also fun to have around but pricey to field in an army roster. But my main disappointment was using the new Hag Witch hero unit. They worked well enough and were effective, but didn’t feel like anything special. I could easily swap them out for another hero unit and be just as happy. Playing Mother Ostankya overall felt like a standard campaign playthrough with a somewhat improved Kislev roster.
Yuan Bo, the Jade Dragon
If Mother Ostankya felt like a standard campaign, then Yuan Bo is a standard campaign with added customization options. Players will progress along a more traditional tech tree and use the Xu Xing compass mechanic to customize the benefits that support a preferred playstyle. The main difference is that Yuan Bo has four additional compass directions to unlock during the campaign.
Players will still be balancing Yin and Yang as they build settlements. Many of the units typically used will be familiar to Grand Cathey players. While there are new units that help to fill out some gaps in the Cathey roster, they are not essential. The Zhangu War Drum may be the only exception since it buffs your other units in a large area and provides immunity to psychological effects. But I will admit that including a Jade or Jet Lion in your roster does look great, and they have some fun animations.
Taking the playstyle customization even further, Yaun Bo also uses a set of resources, Stone and Steel, that accelerate/improve different activity outcomes. Stone can complete buildings or improve diplomacy outcomes. While Steel can turn garrisons into armies, successfully complete hero actions, and more. While it is another resource to manage, the benefits can be the key to success in clutch situations throughout the campaign.
The real star, though is Yaun Bo. The Jade Dragon can be devastating in battle. If managed well, he can take out other legendary lords without too much of an issue. While it's fun to watch him rip something apart, and they fly off to the next battle, we have seen this before with other legendary characters. The gameplay can start to feel quite familiar.
The new legendary lord of Tzeentch is where things get a bit more interesting. The Changeling ignores diplomatic penalties for crossing into the territories of other factions. He doesn’t own cities. Instead, he establishes Trickster cults after winning a battle against an enemy settlement. The type of cult built in this way can be symbiotic or parasitic. A third type of cult, a military cult, can also created. But to do so, players need to use the hero action of a Trickster Cultist hero.
It can be fun to decide if you want to help the host city in case enemies attack it in the future or take as much as you can get. I had fun establishing as many cults as possible in the early game by attacking various factions or using hero actions when some settlement had too large of a standing army. Even better, as you expand and create armies, they are hidden within regions with established Trickster cults.
The Changeling uses cult supplies rather than gold to improve cults as the game progresses. During the early game, I did have issues with the amount of Cult supplies to the point where I found it was slowing down my gameplay substantially. But as I progressed to the mid-game and expanded my cults to other factions the resources started pouring in.
Another fun mechanic for this character is the ability to take on the form and abilities of other legendary lords. To unlock each new form The Changeling needs to defeat a lord in combat during the campaign or unlock certain ones by completing objectives.
Completing Schemes is the way to win the campaign with this character. During gameplay, The Changeling will need to travel to different areas referred to as Theatres of War in the Schemes panel. In each area, Schemes and a Grand Scheme need to be completed. Once three Grand Schemes are complete, the Ultimate Scheme unlocks as the final challenge. The Scheme mechanic provided a lot to do as I moved around the map. It worked better at keeping me engaged compared to the typical objectives.
I have had a lot of fun with The Changeling gameplay, but it is a lot of mechanics track initially. As I progressed through the campaign, I quickly became more comfortable with how to play The Changeling. But I could see other players finding them a bit overwhelming. I even found trying to decide whether to develop magic or my cult/army bonuses on the tech tree a bit overwhelming when combined with everything else.
As far as the new units are concerned. There are a couple of good additions, but the Mutalith Vortex Beast is by far the best-looking one. Who doesn’t want a Cthulhu-inspired creature charging into combat on their side?
On the technical side, I have no complaints about the performance. I had only a few stutters and no crashes. The new legendary lords and units look great. Some of the new animations are a lot of fun to watch during a battle and have led to a few allies dying while I was distracted.
I have enjoyed playing each of the new legendary lords well enough. Unfortunately, none of them, in my opinion, have a particularly memorable campaign story. The new voiceovers are decent, but the frequent comments made by each lord can quickly become annoying. I also found the swap between a female advisor and the original male advisor during the campaign slightly jarring, even though both sounded good.
The gameplay mechanics for each new legendary lord are solid, but only The Changeling felt like a new and different experience that kept me engaged. With the DLC priced at $24.99, the other two characters needed more.
While I still think Total War: Warhammer III: Shadows of Change is a good DLC, it could have been a great one with a few more unique mechanics. If you enjoy all three factions or really like how The Changeling gameplay sounds, it may be worth picking up sooner rather than later.
Full Disclosure: A copy of the DLC was provided for the purpose of review.